North Korea could perform a fourth underground nuclear weapons test at Punggye-ri, the site of its previous test, a South Korean government source said, adding that Pyongyang appeared to be making preparations for the test.
This comes on the heels of the South’s defense ministry reports that Pyongyang could perform a mid-range missile test-launch by Wednesday – also the deadline it has given to foreign diplomats to evacuate, as their safety would reportedly no longer be guaranteed by the government.
“We have detected increased activity of labor forces and vehicles at the Southern tunnel of the test site in Punggye-ri, where North Korea has worked on maintenance for facilities since its third nuclear test in February,” one of South’s top government officials said. He added that “the activities appear to be similar to those before the third test, so we are closely monitoring the site”, Voice of Russia reported on Monday.
The official went on to say that the South Korean government “were also tipped off that Pyongyang would soon carry out an additional nuclear test… but we are analyzing if it is indeed preparation for an additional test or if it is just to pressure Seoul and Washington”.
There is, however, speculation of a possible provocation by the North, following an alleged loading of mid-range missiles onto mobile launchers and storing them away from prying eyes in facilities on the East coast. National Security Adviser Kim Jan-Soo said, “There are no signs of a full-scale war as of now, but the North will have to prepare for retaliation in case of any local war.”
North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005, and in 2006, 2009 and 2013 conducted underground nuclear tests, which have led to protests from the international community.